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Osun re-Run: Voters asked to swear before being paid to vote, TMG alleges

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Abiola Afolabi-Akiyode


• Poll Opens Electoral System’s Weakness, Says Adegboruwa

The chairperson of the Transition Monitoring Group (TMG), Dr. Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, has said that Thursday’s re-run of the Osun State governorship election was rife with irregularities, voter coercion and illegalities. Akiyode-Abiola said the party agents were not deterred in any way by the stern warning of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that it would decisively deal with any party or its agents that deal in ‘see and buy’ politics, but managed to devise other means to perpetuate illegalities.

On his part, human rights lawyer, Ebun Olu-Adegboruwa, yesterday, passed a damning verdict on the conduct of the supplementary election, saying it has opened up the weakness of the country’s electoral system. Adegboruwa, in his comment, titled, ‘Osun governorship election: Back to the trenches,’ said it is a signal of what to expect in states like Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Taraba and others regarded as battlegrounds for the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Akiyode-Afolabi, whose TMG was one of the independent electoral observers present in Osun during the election, in which INEC has declared APC’s Gboyega Oyetola as winner, said: “The perpetrators and election riggers devised other means to rig the elections. “They paid money to voters before the elections. There were those that were given money right before they went to vote, and then there were the camp voters that collected people’s PVCs just before the elections. We got reports of some voters that were asked to swear or take an oath before they were paid money.

“The methods were very complex and voters must begin to realise that these kinds of inducements will kill the democratic system and should be resisted.” She added that the methods used only sadly exploited the poverty of the people and took advantage of their vulnerability to rob them of their votes, saying: “We must put an end to this, because if this is a sign of things to come, this portends a great danger for next year’s general elections.”

Adegboruwa, who said his comments were based principally on the report of observers of the re-run election, especially the Situation Room of the civil societies, foreign and local observers, who all monitored the exercise and his observation of events on the social and traditional media, added that the election has shown that INEC is not independent.

“The influence of the ruling party on INEC cannot be overemphasised, especially as it has constantly been trumpeted that there are many
loyalists and relatives of the President occupying very high positions in INEC.“It is thus almost certain that in keenly contested elections, such as the Osun governorship, INEC will be reluctant to declare a candidate of the opposition party as the winner.

“Thus, the general view in respect of the Osun election is that it became inconclusive by reason only that the opposition candidate was leading,” he said.He also noted the compromise of the security agencies, who he said all capitulated to the pressure of the ruling APC to betray the people of Nigeria, to whom they owe their primary allegiance.
 
The lawyer stressed that with all the heads of most of the security agencies coming from a particular section of the country and loyal to the
President who appointed them, it was obvious that they would act in deference to the ruling party of their commander-in-chief. Adegboruwa further raised the issues of violence, vote-buying, intimidation and harassment of voters, election observers and party agents as some of the negatives of the election, saying: “With the police and other security agencies under the control of the ruling party, it became easy to unleash thugs on perceived agents of the opposition party.

“Now, the seeming justification for this electoral pattern is that the opposition PDP did worse when it was in power, as we can all readily recall the case of Ekiti, where security agencies swooped upon the opposition, militarised the entire state and virtually emptied the treasury in a single election.“However, the expectation of Nigerians was that with the advent of APC, the country would witness some radical reforms and improvement
in our electoral system.

“In paragraph 2 of the APC Manifesto, the party had promised to ‘Strengthen INEC to reduce/eliminate electoral malpractices,” he added.The lawyer noted that as of the time of the 2015 presidential election, “we were already moving close to eliminating the known electoral malpractices. Indeed, there’s been no known major upset from the Elections Petition Tribunals, in respect of the 2015 elections.

“So, our expectations had been that things would get better, but it has not been so. The sad impression that the APC as a ruling party, and INEC as the electoral body, have both created with the Osun re-run election is that we are back in the trenches of the do-or-die electoral regime
of violence and of denial of the real will of the people in the choice of their leaders. It is most unfortunate, to say the least.”


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